January 5, 2010

Updated to new version of WordPress

Filed under: Administrivia — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:54

In case there are any style or functionality glitches, that’d be the reason why. If you do see something clearly not right, please drop me a comment on this post and I’ll flail around to try to fix it . . .

QotD: What will be the big inane fears of the Twenty-teens?

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:37

What will be the great hysterical fears of the coming decade? By definition, such worries need to be simultaneously undocumentable and just plausible enough to convince politicians, celebrities, civic do-gooders, captains of industry and media types that our very society hangs in the balance.

For a classic example, think back to the 1980s, when Tipper Gore, the wife of then-Sen. Al Gore, helped form the Parents Music Resource Center and addressed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation regarding the pressing topic of sexual, violent and occult imagery in pop music. As Mrs. Gore wrote in her best-selling (and now hard-to-find) 1987 book “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society,” “By using satanic symbols on the concert stage, and album covers, such as those used by Ozzy Osbourne…certain heavy metal bands lure teenagers into what one expert has called ‘the cult of the eighties.’ Many kids experiment with the deadly satanic game, and get hooked.”

It is probably only thanks to the intervention of the Gores that we managed as a country to wrestle free both of Beelzebub’s and Ronnie James Dio’s bony grasp. Which, it’s worth adding, might have been preferable to that of Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner.

Nick Gillespie, “Don’t Fear The 2010s! Embrace the coming decade’s new distractions and overblown worries”, Reason, 2010-01-05

Felicia Day in follow-on to Avatar?

Filed under: Gaming, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:47


Original image here. Tweeted by Jeff Carlisle.

The real universe is like an original Star Trek set

Filed under: Science, Space — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:26

The moon may not be made of cheese, but how about a planet made of styrofoam?

A giant planet with the density of Styrofoam is one of a clutch of new exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler telescope. The planets are too hot to support life as we know it, but the discoveries, made during the telescope’s first few weeks of operation, suggest Kepler is on the right track to find Earth’s twins, researchers say.

More than 400 planets have now been found orbiting other stars, but Earth-sized planets — which may be the best habitats for life – have remained elusive.

NASA’s orbiting Kepler telescope is designed to find them. It has been scrutinising 100,000 stars since April 2009, searching for telltale dips in starlight created when planets pass in front of their host stars.

A decade of war

Filed under: Africa, Asia, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:19

Strategy Page has an annotated list of the last decade’s wars, declared and undeclared, and armed confrontations just short of warfare:

It’s actually been a decade of less and less war. There’s also been a lot of déjà vu, with many wars seeming to be endless. Some wars are like that. So what were all the current hot spots like a decade ago, and what happened to them? Below is a list, with the short version of what happened (check out archives for the much longer version).

Afghanistan was sort of under the control of the Pakistani backed Taliban in 2000. But the civil war, that began in the late 1970s, was still going on. The Taliban were winning, slowly, fueled by taxes on the heroin trade. But the Taliban were increasingly unpopular, mainly for trying to impose lifestyle rules on a hostile population. September 11, 2001 brought in the Americans to help the factions still fighting the Taliban, and within three months, the Taliban were out of power, and fleeing to Pakistan. A democracy was established, but corruption and tribal rivalries crippled it from the start. The Pushtun tribes resented the domination of the non-Pushtun tribes (60 percent of the population), and this enabled the Taliban to rebuild and undertake a terror campaign to regain control of the country. It’s a suicide mission (even most Pushtuns oppose them), but that’s pretty normal for Afghanistan.

[. . .]

Iraq- Saddam Hussein was under siege at the beginning of the decade, refusing to comply with the terms of his defeat in the 1991 war over Kuwait. Saddam, as he later admitted, had no weapons of mass destruction, but did not want the Iranians (who wanted to kill him for invading in 1980) to know. It was a successful deception, so much so that all the world’s intel agencies agreed that Saddam had these weapons, and that was used to justify the U.S./British invasion of 2003. There followed five years of terrorism, as the Sunni Arab minority (which Saddam had led) tried to murder their way back into power. That didn’t work, and Iraq ends the decade with a booming, not shrinking, economy, and a bloody resolution to some long time political disputes.

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